Remembering how to play

“Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play”. ~Heraclitus

As a leader, my mantra has always been “it is my job to provide the tools, resources, support and direction to allow our employees to be able to succeed in their jobs”.  My teams, including their managers, work hard with passion, rigor and a great sense of pride in  making sure they are doing what is right for their customers.  In the insurance industry, this isn’t always easy or fun because the contact we have with our customers is when they have experienced a physical loss or pain of some kind at work. 

So what does this have to do with remembering how to play?

I had one of my AHA moments last week reminding me how important it is to take a break from our adult responsibilities at work and find some time to circle back to being a kid again:  

We decided to have a holiday/employee appreciation afternoon (lunch and bowling) which was a first time event for a smaller office we had integrated with 3 years ago through an acquisition.  The day after their off-site bowling day,  My email box had a message from every  single one of those associates from that office thanking me, sharing the stories and some pics from the event.  Those photos showed all of them grinning from ear to ear with pure joy and I have to admit, that is the first time I have seen them so engaged and happy since I had started working with them almost 3 years ago. 

So why is Play so important when we are an adult?

  • It allows us to let go of mental “burdens”. A child is pretty adept at forgetting about the “chores” when they are running off to play.
  • It allows us to be viewed as a person versus as a worker.  Do children ask each other about what classes they are in at school or what grades they are getting? Generally, kids are asking each other “what’s your name… do you have a puppy/cat/fish/pony… what’s your mommy/daddy’s name?… do you have a brother/sister?”  Children really do not care what each other does rather they focus on learning about who their new friend is.
  • It allows us to rejuvenate.  After play, we come back to our adult lives with a little more energy.  We come back talking about our play-date with energy and enthusiasm.
  • It allows us to be more creative and to learn.  We all know that a child’s play is critical for their learning and development – why would it be any different for an adult?
  • It also fosters the concept of team.  If you watch children at a playground,  they are generally sliding down slides together,  running after each other, swinging on swings together.  It is very difficult for an organization to succeed if everyone is off playing in a corner by themselves.  Organizations are groups of people working together to reach a common goal – hmm, sounds like that may be a definition of a team possibly?

I heard on the news the other day that Facebook is one of the top places to work.  The physical environment is more of a play environment because they understand play is critical to unleash the best in people. 

How much time do you spend in play?

What are some of the ways your organization encourages play?

I have definitely had a good wake up call this past week to remember that encouraging play within my organization is part of my leadership mantra – I need to provide the tools, resources, support and direction for people to be able to have fun and possibly relearn how to play.

I would love to hear your comments and thoughts and I hope you take some time this coming week to play…


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